David tried to work with a son, Amnon, who had raped his half-sister, giving him an opportunity to change his ways. When David’s waiting was too much for Amnon’s brother, Absalom murdered Amnon out of anger at what he did. Now, David is trying to get Absalom to turn around and change his ways. David didn’t want to allow Absalom back into town because he had murdered his brother and, to administer justice, David would need to put him to death. After much time and conversation, Joab finally convinces David to let his son come back.
Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king gave this order: "Absalom may go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence." So Absalom did not see the king. Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds! He had three sons and one daughter. His daughter's name was Tamar, and she was very beautiful. (2 Samuel 14:23-27 NLT)
Letting Absalom come back to town was one thing. Allowing him to come back home was another. David knew that, as king, he would need to sentence his son to death. This is something David simply did not want to do. Absalom had done actions that deserved death, but he loved his son. What David really wants is for his son to never have murdered his brother. Since it’s too late for that, now David wants Absalom to repent of his actions and stop murdering people. So, David patiently waits for his son to change his ways.
Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years, but he never got to see the king. Then Absalom sent for Joab to ask him to intercede for him, but Joab refused to come. Absalom sent for him a second time, but again Joab refused to come. So Absalom said to his servants, "Go and set fire to Joab's barley field, the field next to mine." So they set his field on fire, as Absalom had commanded. Then Joab came to Absalom at his house and demanded, "Why did your servants set my field on fire?" And Absalom replied, "Because I wanted you to ask the king why he brought me back from Geshur if he didn't intend to see me. I might as well have stayed there. Let me see the king; if he finds me guilty of anything, then let him kill me." So Joab told the king what Absalom had said. Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him. (2 Samuel 14:28-33 NLT)
David allowed Absalom back into his household, but not because Absalom was innocent. David allowed it because David was being patient. David was waiting for his son to change. David was trying to help his son see the error of his ways, turn around in repentance, and, finally, walk together with God.
God does the same thing with us and it confuses us. We grow up learning that there is right and wrong. We learn that God celebrates when we do right and punishes us when we do wrong. Then we do wrong and wait for the lightning strike. When it doesn’t happen, we start to question everything we learned. Does God really punish us when we do wrong? Was my action really wrong? Does God even exist at all?
When we go down this path, we’re missing what’s really happening. God exists. God saw what we did. What we did was wrong. God is simply being patient with us, trying to get us to turn around (2 Peter 3:9). Don’t mistake God’s patience with permission. Don’t confuse God’s acceptance with approval. God does not approve of our wrongdoing. God does not give us permission to continue. God lets us live another day with hopes that we will stop it, turn around, and come back to God.
How about you? Do you think you’re getting away with things because God didn’t zap you right away? Do you get confused by God’s patience?